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Gregersen, Andreas.  “Genre, Technology, and Embodied Interaction: The Evolution of Digital Game Genres and Motion Gaming.” MedieKulture 2011 (51).  94-109.

 

Abstract:

Technology has been given relatively little attention in genre theory, but this article argues that material technologies can be important components in genre development. The argument is based on a historically informed analysis of digital games, with special attention paid to home console video games and recent genre developments within this domain commonly referred to as motion gaming.

The main point is that digital game genres imply structured embodied activity. A constitutive element of digital game mediation is a control interface geared to player embodiment, and I propose the concept of ‘interaction modes’ to describe the coupling of technology and player embodiment and show how this can be integrated with genre theory. The resulting framework allows for increased attention to continuity and change in game and communication genres, material and digital technologies, and the related interaction modes.

 

  • G. identifies “motion gaming” as a “broader trend in gaming towards the physical movement of players and the related technologies involved” (95).  G. clues in on this term as a way to highlight how material technology and player embodiment in genre studies is somewhat underdeveloped.  To supplement this gap, G. looks to the genre evolution of controllers to understand the development of motion gaming.
  • Argument:  1) existing genre theories can’t account for many material aspects of digital life – in this case, controllers[1. A contentious claim, to be sure.  Especially considering the mediated multimodal genre systems that Prior discusses in this post]; 2) the role of control interfaces must take into account the interactive features of a game system as well as the embodied materiality of the player – to bend genre theory to accommodate these features, G. introduces he term interaction modes or the ways that interface, player, and screen work together to create particular activity; and 3) application of #2 to data.
  • G. points out that Yates & Orlikowski (1992 – “Genres of Organizational Communication: A Structurational Approach to Studying Communication and Media“) note that genres are often characterized by a similarity in substance and form; however, there is often a difference between the media (tool) and the typified communicative action (thing done) (310-11).  Understandably, G. claims that this has resulted in some confusion – genre as form is the way that genre functions as communicative/symbolic action while genre as medium is the way that genre presents itself as organizationally/structurally similar to other mediums.  In other words, a genres medium is fairly stable whereas a genres form could transfer, mutate, and proliferate across multiple forms of media (319)[2. This seems important to my own work in the dissertation.  Obviously, genres function as tools-in-use in the sites that study; however, the kinds of actions they facilitate and perform are often different.  Tracing the genre as form will provide a way around the problem of genre as medium, allowing me to concentrate on the kinds of social action engendered by particular mediums leads to the production of particular objects in the piratical activity system.].  This leads G. to conclude that “some genres seem constituted by specific technologies, others less so.  Such relations will change over time – and, importantly, technologies may also expand into other existing genres as part of such processes” (96).  As such, his analysis finds that while some genres are very much tethered to particular technologies, others are not.
  • Referencing Kiousis (2002), G. notes that media interactivity can be investigated at the level of technology, nature of exchange, and users’ perception (97-8).  In this study, he’ll be investigating the technology.
  • G. observes that most folks categorize digital games into genres based on a “game’s criteria for success” or, put differently, “the types of interactivity demanded by the game structure, i.e., what the player is supposed to do to succeed” (98).  This results in genres like action, adventure, strategy, etc.  G. argues that to supplement this generic understanding, we must consider how material technology enters into interactivity.  Specifically, he notes that “the innovation, evolution and consolidation of interface technologies and their connections to game genres have been a key distinguishing feature of the recent motion game phenomenon” (99).
  • Interaction modes – generic structures of action that take into account both our common physical environment as well as generic physical interfaces (100).  This move toward the physical is noteworthy as it reconceptualizes genres as not only representational provinces of meaning but as embodied provinces of meaning as action (101).  In other words, notions of genre not only consider structured knowledge but structures of embodied action.  As G. states, “we know genres and we know what to do with genres” (101).
  • G. claims that taking into account interaction modes allows him to integrate Orlikowski and Yates’ idea of “genre repertoire”: a set of genres/agents that given communities understand and know how to manipulate/perform.  In this case, the genre repertoire is compsed of game genres, their success criteria, their specific interfaces, and their interaction modes (embodied interaction among interface, player, game) (101)[3. Again, Orlikowski and Yates’ work seems particuarly apropos to your own work: considering how genre repertoires as well as genre as form/medium will be important in the diss work of chapter 4.].
  • G. recounts various different interactive modes across platforms before closing.  In the conclusion, he argues that genre should be rearticulated – vis-a-vis interaction modes – to also encompass “embodied provinces of meaning” (107).  Here’s the parting shot: “Thus, genres may move and cross-breed across media technologies, but technologies and embodiment also matter in genre.  Genres evolve, and so should genre theory” (107).  Great read.

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